Price tag for fixing dilapidated Manitoba First Nations homes hits $2B: report

WINNIPEG - Internal government documents say Manitoba First Nations live in some of the most dilapidated homes in the country and it will cost $2 billion to eliminate mould and chronic overcrowding in that province alone.

See Full Article

That's almost 13 times more than the $150 million the federal government has budgeted for housing on all reserves across Canada this year.

Reports from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information legislation, say the housing situation in Manitoba has worsened as infrastructure funding has been siphoned off to other areas.

"As a result, Manitoba First Nations continue to face further deterioration in infrastructure," says the internal report dated January 2015.

"Current estimates indicate a $1.9B need to address existing overcrowding, replacement and major repairs related to mould and substandard conditions of housing units. Key challenges continue to include affordability, low income and high social assistance rates."

The report notes Manitoba has among the highest percentage at 29 of indigenous people living in poor housing in Canada. Officials say Alberta is the only other province in a similar situation.

One quarter of existing homes on reserves in both provinces need to be repaired or replaced.

Chief David McDougall said the situation is a "ticking time bomb" in his remote aboriginal community of St. Theresa Point in northern Manitoba. The waiting list for housing on the cluster of four reserves in his tribal council is 1,500. Last year, his reserve got 18 units.

They were the lucky ones. Other reserves got less than that.

It's not uncommon for 18 people to live in a small bungalow, McDougall said. Last year, there were 23 people living in a two-bedroom home.

"They had to take turns sleeping."

While the government's own estimates put Manitoba's housing needs at $2 billion, the department said $50 million is budgeted for on-reserve housing in the province this year.

That is to drop to $29 million next year.

Some reserves can build additional homes with a ministerial loan guarantee, but McDougall said that isn't available if the reserve is under third-party management. The department's internal report said only 30 per cent of Manitoba reserves operate independently.

People on McDougall's reserve are losing hope, he said. Suicides are on the rise while others turn to a homemade alcoholic concoction called "superjuice."

The federal government spent the last few years hooking up the reserve's homes to water and sewer, but McDougall compared that to putting new tires on a rusty, decrepit car.

"We need to find a proper, sustainable solution - what is realistic in terms of how we can begin to even make a dent in this huge backlog."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she's not deterred by the $2-billion price tag. She couldn't explain exactly how the new Liberal government will tackle the backlog, but said improving First Nations housing is a priority.

"I've been in those homes," Bennett said in an interview. "It is a disgrace for Canadians to watch. There is a consensus in this country that we have got to get going on this.

"The sticker shock on any of these things can't get in the way of us beginning what has to happen."

Ottawa has been warned before about the housing situation on Manitoba reserves. A 2011 internal assessment of on-reserve housing said communities don't have the means to maintain the homes they have, which often require "aggressive maintenance."

"The consequences are manifold: maintaining housing stock is costly, poorly maintained housing is unsafe and contributes to poor health, which in itself generates additional costs," stated the report.

An evaluation three years before found people on reserves were living in homes that were "falling apart" and rife with mould, which made them "not suitable for people with breathing problems." It noted two people died in one community "related to wiring and lack of heat. People were using a dryer to help heat a home."

Craig Makinaw, Alberta regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations, said the situation is dire for some First Nations. While some reserves with a source of income can afford to go above and beyond government funding, residents on other Alberta reserves wait up to 30 years for a home, he said.

"All the cuts that have happened over the years have caused this backlog," he said. "It needs to be addressed because it's not going to get any better."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Russia strikes Kyiv as troops consolidate gains in the east

    World News CTV News
    KYIV, Ukraine - Russia attacked the Ukrainian capital early Sunday, striking at least two residential buildings, the mayor of Kyiv said, as elsewhere Russian troops fought to consolidate their gains in the country's east. Associated Press journalists in Kyiv saw rescue services battling flames and rescuing civilians. Source
  • At least 20 dead in South African club; cause not yet known

    World News CTV News
    JOHANNESBURG - South African police are investigating the deaths of at least 20 people at a nightclub in the coastal town of East London early Sunday morning. It is unclear what led to the deaths of the young people, who were reportedly attending a party to celebrate the end of winter school exams. Source
  • Public safety minister eyes steps to strengthen oversight of the RCMP

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA - The federal public safety minister says he is "deeply committed" to enhancing oversight of the RCMP by strengthening the role of the national police force's management advisory board. In an interview, Marco Mendicino expressed a desire to give the board the "independence and autonomy that it needs" -- possibly through legislative amendments -- to ensure adequate supervision. Source
  • As Senate-confirmed justices end Roe, how will voters react?

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - The end of Roe v. Wade started in the Senate. It was the Senate Republican partnership with President Donald Trump to confirm conservative judges, and transform the federal judiciary, that paved the way for the Supreme Court's landmark ruling to overturn the constitutional right to abortion. Source
  • At least 20 people found dead inside South African nightclub

    World News CBC News
    South African police are investigating the deaths of at least 20 people at a nightclub in the coastal town of East London early Sunday morning. It is unclear what led to the deaths of the young people, who were reportedly attending a party to celebrate the end of winter school exams. Source
  • Quebec homeowners say Ottawa must address decades of erosion caused by ship traffic

    Canada News CTV News
    Every year, 100-year-old Angélique Beauchemin watches more of her land crumble into the St. Lawrence River. From her home along a busy stretch of river in Verchères, Que., on Montreal's South Shore, she watches waves from passing ships crash into the rock wall at the base of her property, sweeping chunks away and eating into the unprotected banks from below. Source
  • Climate goals may be at odds with G7 response to fallout from Russian invasion

    World News CTV News
    SCHLOSS ELMAU, GERMANY - G7 leaders opened their summit Sunday with a discussion about shaping the global economy at a time when conflict and unrest are driving up prices and access to key goods around the world. Source
  • From closures to near-normal routines, students look back on COVID-warped school year

    Canada News CTV News
    The final bell is about to ring at the end of a topsy-turvy school year warped by the COVID-19 crisis. Many Canadian students cautiously returned to class this fall under strict pandemic protocols, such as mandatory masking and social distancing. Source
  • Live updates: G7 leaders poke fun at Putin's tough image

    World News CTV News
    ELMAU, Germany - The latest on the G7 summit, the annual meeting of the leading democratic economies, which this year is being held in Germany's Bavarian Alps. Leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Germany have joked about what would make them look tougher than Russian President Vladimir Putin. Source
  • Live updates: Germany's leader commends unity on Ukraine

    World News CTV News
    ELMAU, Germany - The latest on the G7 summit, the annual meeting of the leading democratic economies, which this year is being held in Germany's Bavarian Alps. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says attacks by Russia on residential buildings in Kyiv show the importance of international unity in supporting Ukraine. Source